• February 12, 2010
  • 12

Ask America’s 1st Sgt: Edition 2

Tankerbabe asks: I’ve always been confused about Navy Corpsmen being so widely utilized by the Marines as medics. Please explain any reasons/history behind how this came about. Do Marines have medics or only utilize the Corpsmen?

Additionally, it is my understanding that Navy Corpsmen are widely considered Marines by the Marines. HELP!

The Marine Corps is a component of the Department of the Navy. When asked about whether or not this is true your standard Marine response is: “Yes, we are under the Department of the Navy; the Men’s Department.”

Marines are naval infantry so technically we are supported by the Navy to carry out our mission. The Navy/Marine Corps team has been successfully defeating our nation’s enemies together for quite some time. Perfectly illustrating this is the famous photo by Joe Rosenthal of the second flag raising on Iwo Jima. Corpsman John Bradley is one of the six men in the photograph.

We do have Combat Life Saver trained Marines but they are not medics or Corpsmen just gunslingers with a little extra medical training. I wrote a post about one of my Corpsmen and a Combat Life Saver here:

Ambassadors in Desert Tan

Within the Navy there are blue side and green side Corpsmen. Blue siders serve strictly within the Navy itself and green siders serve with Marines and are of course the superior breed of Corpsman. Blue siders hate the green side with a passion and treat green siders with more contempt than they do Marines. This is all derived from petty jealously and an overwhelming inferiority complex. Green side Corpsmen hate the blue side because regular Navy Corpsmen are sloppy undisciplined troglodytes.

Navy Corpsmen are NOT considered Marines by any means. They are Sailors and do not wish to be considered Marines which is just as it should be. Sailors have their own Naval traditions of which they are justifiably proud. Though they are not considered Marines this does not diminish the bond shared by Marines with their Corpsmen.

Which reminds me of a quick story… or three…

It may come as a shock to some that as a young Marine I used to instigate brawls with other platoons. These sessions culminated with knots of grappling bodies usually being broken up by SNCOs yelling about someone getting hurt.

Once during one of these epic battles somewhere in the jungles of Okinawa our platoon Corpsman was tackled by a couple of heathens from the other platoon.

“They got DOC!”

You might as well have said something about our mother.

Rising en mass we assaulted through the other platoon to rescue our doc. NHL games had never seen as much action as we body checked fellow Marines into the jungle floor.

Corpsmen are always out to test Marines’ pain tolerance as well.

During a live fire range in Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island I was operating an M203 grenade launcher. During the shoot I closed the breach on the webbing of my left hand taking a nice chunk of flesh with it. I finished the shoot and handed the M203 over liberally anointed with blood.

Ambling over to the range Corpsman I asked if he could take a look at it. Dutifully he poured alcohol and other pain inducing chemicals into the wound and began scrubbing it with a cheese grater. Vowing not to let this Swabby see what kind of hurt I was in I acted bored and even managed a yawn while my brain was screaming: “This guy is grinding my entire hand off all the way to the wrist!”

On another occasion I was in the clinic at Quantico, VA preparing for embassy duty in Africa. Before shipping off to foreign lands we get our shots updated and are immunized against any and all local varieties of nastiness.

The Doc had me drop trou and proceeded to give me a shot in the rear. I thought he had merely thrown a javelin at my butt but then I heard him pick up a mallet and begin hammering it all the way in. As it passed through my pelvis I exclaimed: “Whooooooo! Doc, that tickles!”

He laughed genuinely at my humor then grabbed another harpoon plunging it into my buttocks with all the fury of Captain Ahab.

Other reasons Marines dig Corpsmen:

From the Medal of Honor citation of Hospital Apprentice First Class Fred Faulkner Lester during WWII.

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Medical Corpsman with an Assault Rifle Platoon, attached to the 1st Battalion, 22d Marines, 6th Marine Division, during action against enemy Japanese forces on Okinawa Shima in the Ryukyu Chain, 8 June 1945. Quick to spot a wounded marine lying in an open field beyond the front lines following the relentless assault against a strategic Japanese hill position, Lester unhesitatingly crawled toward the casualty under a concentrated barrage from hostile machineguns, rifles, and grenades. Torn by enemy rifle bullets as he inched forward, he stoically disregarded the mounting fury of Japanese fire and his own pain to pull the wounded man toward a covered position. Struck by enemy fire a second time before he reached cover, he exerted tremendous effort and succeeded in pulling his comrade to safety where, too seriously wounded himself to administer aid, he instructed 2 of his squad in proper medical treatment of the rescued marine. Realizing that his own wounds were fatal, he staunchly refused medical attention for himself and, gathering his fast-waning strength with calm determination, coolly and expertly directed his men in the treatment of 2 other wounded marines, succumbing shortly thereafter. Completely selfless in his concern for the welfare of his fighting comrades, Lester, by his indomitable spirit, outstanding valor, and competent direction of others, had saved the life of 1 who otherwise must have perished and had contributed to the safety of countless others. Lester’s fortitude in the face of certain death sustains and enhances the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

If you don’t love your Corpsmen then you are just all kinds of wrong.

Semper Fi!

America’s 1stSgt

/ / / /


  1. I’ll send this over to The Hubs. His FST was at a naval base in Kunar (yeah, I know…sailors on land). Anyway, he worked a lot of corpsmen while there.

  2. I understand what the feelings are. Bottom line is the Ninja’s and the Doc’s take care of each other. And there are many corpsman’s and medics who have earned the MOH – most posthumously.

  3. Thank you America’s 1st Sgt. I didn’t know about the blue siders versus green siders. I need to ask my nephew which one he is. Speaking of my nephew, say a prayer for him and all the Marines he’s with in Helmand right now. He was supposed to have been home last week but we got a message on Christmas Day that he was being extended. Now I guess we know why.

    Thanks again Michael. I still have a couple of questions but I’ll email them to you one day.


    P. S. Loved your antecdotes!

  4. CI Roller, thanks. There has always been an interesting relationship between Corpsmen and their Marines. One of my Corpsmen here is going to a Navy hospital for his next tour. I warned him he was going to hate it, but he needs the experience.

    Kanani, technically the Marines aren’t even supposed to be in Afghanistan as it is a land locked country. We’re just good at what we do, winning battles. And where there are Marines breaking things there is a Corpsman nearby shaking his head and rummaging through his gear to find something to patch us up.

    Coffee, the Corpsman rating is one of the most decorated in the Navy. Doesn’t sound like bad company to me.

    Tankerbabe, no problem! If he is with Marines he is most certainly a green side Sailor.

    Remember gang, questions you want answer need to sent to castrapraetoria1@gmail.com with the subject line: Ask America’s 1stSgt. If your question is selected it will be answered in a future post.
    ROEs can be found here: http://castrapraetoria1.blogspot.com/2010/01/new-weekly-feature-ask-americas-1stsgt.html

  5. A1S, I can’t make it through a week without one of your blogs. Your stories made me laugh, your explanation fills a hole in my knowledge, and your reference to the MOH Corpsman made me proud and want to cry all at once. Great blog!

  6. I have to admit. When I found out that FOB Asadabad was commanded by the Navy, I scratched my head. I guess Afghanistan is an all-hands-on-deck situation. My husband had a great time there, and really enjoyed working with all the corpsmen.

  7. Jenny, you are such a flatterer, quit trying to get on my good side. Oh, and thanks. 😉

    be603, uh? Was there a noise?

    Southern, I would love to take credit for the idea but I think it was Hope’s brilliance in this instance that came up with the Ask concept.

    Kanani, Corpsmen are the heat. Besides, they have ibuprofen. Hmmm…

  8. Hmmm, will need to rethink my strategy. Assumed being insulting and getting on A1S’s bad side would be a terribly bad idea. Besides, I spoke nothing but truth. 🙂

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